The Challenge of The Blue Parakeet

I’m currently working my way through a fascinating and challenging book by Scot McKnight. It is called, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I really need to blog about this one because, even though it is relatively short and simply written, there is a lot to process within these relatively few pages.

For example, take the first chapter. In it, McKnight maintains that, as much as we might claim to revere and follow the whole Bible, the truth is that

we all pick and choose the verses that we follow.

To make his point, the author highlights several examples of clear commands and examples of the New Testament that most Christians today have no trouble disregarding: the Sabbath, the tithe as “combination of spiritual support…and social service” (not just a check written to the church), foot washing, the practice of charismatic gifts, and surrendering possessions (14).

Even though I still don’t like the sound of it, I have long known that we “pick and choose”; I think most Christians would acknowledge that, even if they didn’t use those particular words. After all, even as a member of a biblically conservative tradition, I was raised regularly hearing sermons explaining why verses like “greet one another with a holy kiss” and commands about female head coverings did not apply to us, but verses on baptism and women’s roles did. It seemed obvious to me even as a young teen that anyone who had even a passing knowledge of the Old and New Testaments understood that Christians did not follow every command within those sixty-six books.

The question that was never satisfactorily answered for me, however, was how do we pick and choose? The one tool I never received from my upbringing, as biblically centered as it was, was a consistent hermeneutic, a framework through which to read the entirety of Scripture and to understand how to interact with all the verses.

As an adult, I have read a few histories of the churches of Christ and now know that “we” do have a hermeneutic, known as the Baconian hermeneutic. If you are a nerd interested in learning about the Baconian hermeneutic, you can read a good description here. The author, John Mark Hicks, sums up not only the basics of the hermeneutical model, but also identifies my problems with consciously using it as a guide for Scripture. In fact, I now realize that most of the things I have over which I have disagreed with the church have come directly from the application of that model to Scripture. If nothing else, reading the post will explain many of the “quirks” of the churches of Christ!

That said, I love my church, and I don’t foresee me ever leaving this faith tradition that has given me so much. It has given me my love for Scripture, my hunger for studying and knowing the Bible through and through. It has also given me an anti-traditional, theologically-independent streak, which, to be honest, has its drawbacks, but overall, I’m glad I have it. And more than anything else, the church of Christ has given me a great desire for the unity of all believers, for us to embrace ourselves and others as Christians only, irrespective of denomination. Over our relatively short history, I think that the actual practice of the churches of Christ has diverged from that noble goal (depending on who you are, that statement is either disrespectful to the churches of Christ or the world’s biggest understatement). However, despite our inability to live up to our own lofty standards, those standards are still very much present in my heart.

What my membership in the church of Christ has not given me is a consistent hermeneutical model, as I was never explicitly taught “our” model and as I now reject it as an adult.

Thus, I’m in the market for a new one.

And so I’m interested in hearing what Scot McKnight suggests.

Do you have a consistent hermeneutical model? If so, please share!

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim on July 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    One thing I keep in mind when reading the New Testament is that this Testament or Covenant did not begin with Jesus’ birth, nor did his 3 year ministry intiate that covenant. The New Covenant begins with his death and ressurection. Much of Jesus’ teaching recorded in the Gospels was directly addressing those under the Old Covenant and served as a bridge to the New.

    When I read about John in Matthew 3:1-3 and about Jesus in Matthew 4:12-17, I am struck by the obvious parallel: they both preached “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” John preached it first and when he went to prison and could not preach it any longer Jesus picked it up and preached the same. Essentially, the greatest of the Old Covenant prophets was preaching an OT sermon and Jesus preached the same. He preached New Covenant as well, such as Luke 4:18-21 where he announced the fulfillment of the Isaiah 61 prophecy, one which only comes as part of the New covenant.

    The contrast between these two co-inaugural sermons couldn’t be more clear, though. OC – You must repent for the kingdom of God is near. NC – God has come to set the oppressed free. Much of the Gospel accounts falls under one or the other covenant, and that’s one hermeneutic I keep in mind as I read from Genesis to Revelation.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think through these things, Kim.

    Tim

    Reply

    • Those are interesting thoughts, Tim! I like your ideas about the old and new covenant. I do have a couple questions, though: how does (or DOES) your understanding of the New Covenant affect your understanding of Jesus’ words? Do you not see them as authoritative for us, since they are part of the Old Covenant? Do they hold no more weight for believers than the Mosaic Law? And since you do indicate that part of Jesus’ words are “NC,” how do you determine the difference between his “NC” and “OC” words?

      Again, I think I understand what you are saying, but I would love you to clarify these few points in order to help me work through it as well. Thanks!

      Reply

      • Posted by Tim on July 3, 2012 at 9:39 pm

        I can’t say I have worked through all of this, Kim, but when it comes to identifying OC and NC passages one model I start with is OT prophecy. Like Jeremiah31, for example. It’s a description of life under the NC, not OC. With Jesus’ teaching, I think the Matthew 4 passage is clearly OC, as it is a direct continuation of John’s OC prophetic message.

        In the gospels, the parts that seem to line right up with OT writings describing life under the OC are most likely to be OC from what I can see. I think the parts in the gospels that line up well with those portions of the NT written after Jesus’ death and resurrection (that is, after the inauguration of the NC) are most likely NC teachings. There are other ways to interpret Jesus’ teachings, of course. Some say that every word he spoke in the three year ministry is normative for Christians; taken to an extreme, of course, that leads to gouging out eyes and cutting off hands, but few exegete those passages under that hermenutical rubric!

        A lot of people would hold a middle ground just so as to avoid that extreme, but I think it is better to keep from such a fringe area reading by looking at what Paul, Peter, John, James, Jude, Luke (in Acts) and the writer of Hebrews. say in their writings. That’s what helps me understand Jesus’ words under the NC, since they were obviously not OC writers.

        Tim

        Reply

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